The same goes for all sports, the fitter you are the easier and better you can become at it right? This is also the case for riding. So here are some examples of sports you could try to improve your strength and fitness for riding.
Sometimes you just don’t feel like exercising but I promise it will be worth the effort in the end! This is me on a ‘short’ hike!
Now research shows yoga can be good for everyone. It can be particularly good for riders as it addresses the person as a whole. It helps balance the mind, body and emotions. It could be used to de-stress you before you ride so you are calmer and more relaxed before you even arrive at the stables! This maybe particularly good for nervy riders as yoga may give you a bit of mental clarity or just generally relax you before you ride. Yoga may also aid your riding position too, as practicing yoga will make you more aware of how your body moves, it helps you with your core strength and also is helpful for strengthening the muscles for elongating the spine.
There are many types of yoga – bikram, hatha, vinyasa, ashtanga and hot yoga to name a few. Don’t let this put you off try a few different studios, styles and teachers and choose the one that suits you. I can tell you I took a yoga class for about a year before I moved to France. I’d dabbled before and gone to classes that I didn’t enjoy and had started to think perhaps yoga isn’t for me, but then I tried the yoga class at my gym and I loved it! The teacher was very spiritual (I am not a spiritual person) , however she was so inspiring and comforting. I had just started working as a newly qualified nurse and I was having a stressful time of it. I looked forward to my weekly yoga class as it chilled me right out! I would recommend it for sure as sometimes the world does get a bit much and sometimes you just need to do a few sun salutations and lay in a dark room with incense burning and hear some relaxing words from your yoga teacher. Namaste-neigh!
Now I am a big Pilates fan! Anyone that knows me knows I recommend it and am always talking people into starting Pilates. Pilates improves your strength, flexibility and balance. To be a good rider you need good posture as you need to stay balanced on an unpredictable moving horse. To have good posture you need strong back muscles and strong abdominal muscles. Pilates is great a strengthening your core and it is also very good for your arm and leg muscles and all of your muscles actually!
Ok everybody knows that cardiovascular exercise is good for you and for riding in particular it is good for stamina and it strengthens your legs muscles and can help you concentrate on your breathing which will help you when you are riding too. I personally enjoy a run, I’ve found that it is excellent for weight loss or maintaining your weight. It improves your general fitness which then will help in other sports that you participate in. It is also excellent for your mental health, giving you a chance to clear your head and have half an hour to yourself. Sometimes I really don’t feel like running but nothing beats the feeling of when you are finished and you get a real endorphine release making you feel happy and relaxed and less guilty about eating that chocolate bar! So go grab your trainers!
Boxing is a high intensity full body workout. It is ideal for riders as when you are learning to punch you will also develop your leg muscles, core muscles and balance. For riders it is also good for your reaction training. Horses are unpredictable much like a boxing opponent, so it teaches you to be aware of your surroundings so you are able to avoid and block punches as well as returning them when they least expect it! There are many boxercise classes in gyms now and many gyms have boxing rings so give it a go- I know I’d like to! Go on! Pretend that punch bag is your boss!
I know you are thinking this is an article about getting fit to ride, but you know what it’s like any sport the more you do it the better you get at it! If you ride regularly your body will get used to the muscles you use and it also is excellent for your confidence, as the more horses you ride and more experience you gain the more confident rider you become! As they say practice makes perfect or in our case less saddle sore!
Last but not least is swimming. My hubby used to swim competitively so has got me into swimming to a whole new level. I even went to a swimming fitness class which was very serious lane swimming with a scary swimming club coach shouting at us for an hour. I honestly didn’t realise you could sweat whilst swimming until then! I never made it higher than the slowest lane of swimmers but it made me appreciate how good swimming is for you. Swimming is excellent for your posture as you cannot swim well without good posture much like riding. It is also good for loosening muscles that you can’t quite get to with stretching. It is also excellent for your breathing control and is good for relaxation too (if you don’t go to the shouty lane swimming session).
So I hope I have inspired you to get out there and give some of these sports a go!
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